In 2015, Toshiba celebrated its 100 years. In 2017, it was Nikon which was also becoming a hundred years old. And in 2018, Panasonic. How do these Japanese companies to last more than a century, while remaining at the cutting edge of technology? These century-old companies are indeed emblematic of the technological influence of Japan in the world! In an article published on September 10, 2018 in Opinion, Emmanuelle Ducros reveals the longevity secrets of these century-old Japanese tech companies …
According to Emmanuelle Ducros, there are three main principles that explain why Japanese companies live much, much longer than most European start-ups:
First of all, no “culture of adventure”. In Japan, the entrepreneurial spirit rhymes less with audacity than with prudence. It is a whole culture of risk management in business in Japan which contrasts sharply with Western companies and more particularly start-ups, whose lifespan rarely exceeds 2 years … The principle therefore consists in concentrating around ‘a clearly identified “backbone”, and stick to it. Do not “pivot” all the time, do not seek to innovate in order to innovate, but do what you know how to do, and continue to do it well, as long as it meets a need on the part of customers. Panasonic, which was originally a small light bulb manufacturer, very slowly evolved into air conditioning, but only when its first specialty was fully consolidated. In short, no rush! The same as for Nikon, which focuses on “light and its variations”, and nothing else! These companies do not therefore seek to “revolutionize” or “disrupt” their sector. They first focus on a profession that is often basic, and very clearly identified.
Second principle: cultivate the long term. Do not be trapped by hectic news, which actually distracts us from essential objectives. Don’t be pressured by the stock market, figures and annual reports. Cultivating a long or even very long term vision, unlike adventures that are certainly existing, but often too short, not sustainable. This requires, for example, a significant budget for R&D, like Nikon which devotes 10% of its annual turnover to it (that’s more than at Apple!). Benoit Dieuleveult explains for example that “If consumers are loyal to Nikon, it is also because they know that the products will be compatible from one generation to the next. We refuse to frustrate them by making them buy new things all the time. ” Basically, the secret of Nikon is to sell “Confidence, stability, reliability”. Which brands can say the same? Very little, finally… On his blog, Lionel Dricot wrote a startling article about the marketing waste of novelty, inviting us to do “The tupperware experience”... Against this kind of aberration, the secret to the longevity of hundred-year-old companies is therefore to think and design their products as “timeless”, which can be transmitted (and repaired!) from generation to generation. To be considered by all fashion and novelty enthusiasts!
Finally, third principle, which is naturally combined with the first two: adopt a Zen philosophy… What does this mean in practice, especially in the management of a business or a company? In particular, this amounts to never overreacting. Accept repetition. Benoit Dieuleveult explains for example that “Japanese art likes to reproduce the same technical gesture to perfection”. While in Europe, we get tired quickly. The “revolutionary” temperament of the French means that we often want to turn everything upside down, upset everything, we fear boredom, repetition is badly lived, often as a punishment! Likewise, the big Western bosses like to show off, put themselves forward, make shattering announcements. Steve Jobs got us used to the “star boss” style. In Japan, on the other hand, the big bosses are more discreet, not necessarily more humble, but management strives to embody stability and resistance.
Eric Novel recalls that “Panasonic is built on a solid foundation of values, social responsibility, respect for customers and suppliers.” This avoids many disputes, and therefore the lawsuits that may result and the cost of these lawsuits. In the end, everyone wins, starting with the business. Agreeing on a very strong base of values and developing a powerful and foolproof corporate culture is therefore just as important as the very vision of the company and its products. Start-ups can take the seed! All these principles are to be kept in mind, especially for those who want to start or set up their business in Japan.